Being generous despite our debt

I will be honest.

When I get my pay cheque I don’t always feel generous towards others. My first thought is keeping it all. My mind is consumed with student loan balances and costly bills.

The rising cost of education has put the millennial generation in precarious financial waters. Education often feels more like a heavy yoke than an economic opportunity. A Pew Research study from 2012 shows that 40 per cent of households led by someone under the age of 35 have some sort of student debt.

Declining economic fortune not only impacts fiscal prosperity, it impacts generous giving. According to a report issued by Empty Tomb Inc, tithing in the local church is lower than at any point since the great depression.

So how do we balance our desire to be generous with our fiscal obligations?

First things first.

Tithing is a response to God. When we give, we acknowledge that all we have not only comes from Him, it belongs to Him as well. Giving is a sacrifice; therefore people may need to sacrifice parts of their lives in order to give. But this doesn’t always mean more debt.

Do not misunderstand what I am saying. Giving to the church should be a priority as a spiritual discipline. In fact we should strive to give as much as possible, regardless of life circumstances.

But sometimes, especially as a student drowning in debt, it’s just not possible to give as much as we would like.

Live with less so that others may have more.

Enjoy life to the fullest, but recognize that it is OK to live with less.

Many live under the weight of comparison. Subconsciously we measure our success in life by the material possessions we have acquired. We are trapped in the endless cycle of debt, because we have failed to live a lifestyle that matches our income.

Making a conscious choice as to whether something is a want or a need must be continuously evaluated.

There’s no such thing as a small gift.

Our first reaction to financial insecurity is holding on to what little we have. Many of us fail to give anything, because we feel that the amount is unacceptable. Or we feel guilty over our lack of consistency.

After I graduated I secured a decent job; but I still struggled to balance giving with student loan payments. Even if the amount seemed small in relation to my salary, I always strived to give more with each passing year. I consistently set goals for a more generous lifestyle.

When I think giving is hard, I am reminded of the churches in Acts. They didn’t have much, but they gave generously. Giving is painful at first. But the more I give, the more I appreciate what I do have.

Giving gives us an attitude of gratefulness.

Throw out your rule-based living.

We should be careful not to put burdens on others to the point of breaking them. Jesus says that the teachers of the law put heavy loads on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

When I read through the book of Acts I get this inkling that things should be different. Perhaps it is time we rethink the business model that seems to dominate so many ministries.

Rule-based manipulation won’t inspire others to become generous givers.

God’s love compels us to give.

Economic challenges bring the opportunity to redefine our core beliefs. Material prosperity masks our spiritual poverty.

Worldwide profits and production for the most lucrative corporations are at record levels. Yet wages among the average worker have mostly stagnated. Giving is not confined to our churches, and a consistent lifestyle of generosity has implications beyond the local church. It impacts the way we treat our employees, run our businesses, and the policies we support.

The Apostle Paul had wise words for the Corinthians: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Money is not evil. Loving it is.

God gave us His all; shouldn’t this inspire us to give what we can?

Photo (Flickr CC) by Laura.